Damages Available in Wrongful Death Settlements

What Damages Can You Receive for the Untimely Death of a Loved One?

When your loved one dies unexpectedly and in a preventable way, the emotional toll is always heavy. It can also result in sudden financial hardship if that person is a working member of the family. If another person's negligence or recklessness caused their untimely death, then they can be held legally responsible.

You may be curious about how wrongful death settlements work.

Legal professionals can sue negligent defendants responsible for causing the deceased person's death and win damages that can help ease the financial burden. You can start this lawsuit by contacting a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer to discuss the circumstances surrounding your loved one's passing.

In California, wrongful death claims can come from negligence as well as malice (murder). Charges for a wrongful death suit are civil charges, not criminal charges. Since the standard of proof in a wrongful death claim is less strict than in criminal cases, it's not uncommon for a defendant to be acquitted of murder or manslaughter yet still pay for damages caused.

Settlements can result in various damages paid out to the survivors or the person who died because of someone's negligence or intentional actions. In determining what damages can be awarded and who they can be awarded to, attorneys for sudden deaths will examine the factors in each relationship surrounding the deceased.

Who Can Be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Suit?

A case is usually filed by a representative of the "estate" of the deceased victim. They may go to a lawyer for death by negligence. Legal counsel acts on behalf of the victim's loved ones. The individuals entitled to sue vary from state to state. Most commonly, wrongful death lawsuits are brought about by the following:

  • Spouse or significant other
  • Child
  • Parents

California law also allows surviving spouses to start a wrongful death lawsuit even if they were separated. Others ban the surviving spouse from receiving compensation in the event the surviving spouse is guilty of desertion or failure to provide support. Most often, children file claims for the loss of a parent or parents.

Damages Available

In many cases, the deceased person receives medical treatment before their passing, and these medical bills must be paid even if the patient does not survive. When the deceased is no longer around to make an income, their family often has a financial burden. Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of damages you can claim in a wrongful death suit in California.

There are two classifications of damages for your suit:

The first category permits recovery of damages experienced while the victim was still alive. In cases where they were injured and later succumbed to their injuries, the clock for damages can start from the moment of the negligent act causing the death and run until the time of death. Damages in this category might include medical expenses, the deceased's person's mental and physical pain and suffering, the deceased's lost wages, and funeral and burial expenses.

The second category encompasses the losses experienced by the next of kin after the victim's death. Damages are meant to compensate for the financial loss their death caused, and the loss of future earnings will take up a large chunk of the damages. These lost wages can be distributed until the deceased's anticipated retirement.

Other common financial damages distributed in a wrongful death settlement are:

  • Medical Bills
  • Funeral Costs
  • Loss of financial support (surviving family members)

Emotional Distress Damages 
There are non-economic damages that result from an untimely and preventable death, and they compensate for pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of companionship. The loss of companionship can be claimed by a spouse or significant other, but it can also be filed by someone who's lost a parent or child. This type of damage is to compensate for losses of love, affection, companionship, and comfort. You can also make a claim for pain and suffering on behalf of your loved one if they experienced immense pain before they died.

Punitive Damages
Punitive damages serve as an additional punishment for the defendant, and they are meant to ensure that they won't act with that level of negligence or malice again. California doesn't have a maximum on the monetary amount awarded for punitive damages.

Contacting an Attorney

Gutierrez Law is a law firm that can take control of your wrongful death suit, gathering the evidence necessary and convincing the judge to award you maximum compensation. While you are grieving the untimely death of a loved one, you shouldn't have to worry about a lawsuit. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our accidental death lawyers in Los Angeles.